Interview with Breeder/Owner Handlers Greg & Phyllis Rodgers – Purebred Bulldog Dog Breed
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers have had a painting and remodeling business for several years now. Before that, Greg had been in the beer business for 17 years. He has always been an avid golfer, but that has been on hold while he mends from back-to-back shoulder and knee replacement surgeries. Greg is an Army Veteran, stationed in Germany in the 1980s.
Phyllis and Greg enjoy cruising and traveling out West. Most of this has stopped, however, since “Piper” came along. Now they both enjoy their dogs in the show ring, along with meeting so many new friends at each show event.
When were you first introduced to the sport of purebred dogs? To your breed?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: Our first Bulldog, a male, was purchased as a pet in October 2014, and our second, a female, was also purchased as a pet in 2015. We did not have any intentions of showing either. Actually, we knew very little about show dogs with the exception of Westminster. Then one day, our pet groomer asked us about showing our dogs… really, we had no clue how to even go into the ring much less how to enter a show. So, Michelle gave me lessons in a parking lot in front of her store and she also took care of entries.
On the day of the first show that we attended in Starkville, Misssissippi, we had to ask people how to go in the ring and, of course, I did not know NOT to wear a baseball cap in the ring. Even with all this lack of experience, our girl won Winners Bitch—and I was hooked!
How many years in dogs? How many as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: I have owned a dog of some breed or another since childhood; however, I didn’t get my long-desired Bulldog until 2014. Upon starting to show, we were not familiar with the National Owner-Handed Series at all. In June of 2016, at the Tampa shows, we meet a fellow Bulldogger who started to talk to me about the NOHS and encouraged me to look into it, and possibly join the club. My wife did so, and that year, we joined. However, I didn’t really take it seriously and only showed occasionally. I didn’t really take the competition as seriously as I should have until January 2022 when we set a goal to go as far as we possibly could that year with Piper; until it ended for that year on September 21.
We didn’t breed and raise our first litter of Bulldogs until January 2020. We have bred three litters to date and have championed five of those pups as of today.
Do you attend show handling classes? Have you attended any handling seminars?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: Although I feel it would be very beneficial to me, I have never attended a handling class or seminar.
Have you found virtual learning tools to be helpful? Classes? Videos? Websites? Social Media?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: I watched videos by Doris Boyd when I first started trying to show… these were the most helpful videos I have watched.
Do you compete in the National Owner-Handled Series? Are rankings important to you?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: I have competed in the National Owner-Handled Series for the last two years, finishing 6th and 7th last year with two of my puppy littermates. This year, Piper finished as the No. 1 Owner-Handled Bulldog in the country and the No. 7 NOHS Top 100 (OVERALL). The Series has been very important and beneficial to me. I believe it gave Piper and me more exposure to the judges.
How important is the Bred-By Class to you? How important are Specialties?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: Here again, I hadn’t had enough experience in the show ring to really appreciate the Bred-By Class—until last year. I showed and finished my first puppy in the Bred-By Class, making me wish I had shown all five of my champions in the Bred-By Class. My next puppy will definitely compete in Bred-By. I will refrain from speaking about the Specialties at this time.
Is it a challenge to compete with your breed(s) as a Breeder/Owner Handler?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: Yes, at times, it gets VERY challenging, and I wish it was NOT this way… I will leave it right there, for now.
Are you intimidated by the Professional Handlers? By the Judges?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: No, I have many wonderful handler friends and have learned so much from them. I respect them, and they, I do believe, respect me. They are ALL so happy and excited for Piper and me when he places in the Group ring. Piper has a huge fan club, and so, many friends and handlers clap loudly for him as he goes around the Group ring… this gets Piper pumped, making it a joy for him to show.
Piper has a huge fan club, and so, many friends and handlers clap loudly for him as he goes around the Group ring… this gets Piper pumped, making it a joy for him to show.
Who have been your mentor(s) as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: I really had no mentor. I would ask different Owner Handlers questions along the way, picking up tidbits that I could implement. Mostly, however, it has been coaching from my wife—as she is my biggest critic. At times, I get upset with her as she tries to coach and correct the things I need to improve on. She is, however, the actual trainer of all our dogs, and she does such a tremendous job. This makes my job a little too easy.
As a breeder, I totally leave that to my wife. She has such a natural eye or sense for combining the correct stud with our girls. Our first two litters produced eight pups; we sold three of the eight, and championed the five we kept. The three that we sold could easily have championed as well.
How important is the Breeder/Owner Handler to the future of the dog sport?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: The Breeder/Owner Handler is extremely important to the sport, yet we get very little credit and are actually looked down upon by so many Handlers. If it were not for us, Handlers would have no jobs.
What are your goals as an Owner Handler? As a Breeder? Is there a milestone that has eluded you?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: Honestly, I like to make small goals that can get larger and larger as the year goes on… just as we did this year in the National Owner-Handled Series. I would love to have Piper win a Best in Show, so we will strive for that this coming year.
Is there a funny story that you can share about your experiences as a Breeder/Owner Handler?
Greg & Phyllis Rodgers: There are a couple “funnies” as you can imagine. Back to the very first show in Starkville, Mississippi, in 2016, we walked into that arena and saw all these different rings set up… and we looked at each other, wondering what in the world we had gotten ourselves into.
We had our girl, BISS GCH CH Unforgetabull Cream Elclair (Piper’s dam), with us. She was about a year old at the time. So, we had to ask a Ring Steward where to enter the ring. I was standing close to the ring, watching other people go in to show their dogs, when a man walked up to me and said, “I love your BITCH.” I started to hit this man because I thought he was making advances toward my wife! I had never heard a female dog referred to as a BITCH!! Upon saying something to my wife, she started laughing and told me that he was complementing our DOG!!!
Another time, a man walked up to us and started small talk… then he started tossing liver at our girl. Well, still being so green at this (and also from someone telling us to watch people because they might try to poison your dog if you have a really good one), we just “knew” this man was trying to poison her. We picked her up quickly, getting away from him. That man has turned out to be one of my best Handler friends of all. And, NO, he wasn’t trying to poison her. He was just being friendly, and I think, he liked her as well.
Are you looking for a Bulldog puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Bulldog dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
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